The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology issued an interim final rule Wednesday that struck the Health Level Seven International content-exchange standards HL7 2.3.1 and HL7 2.5.1 from the public disease-reporting section of its Standards and Certification Criteria Final Rule for electronic health records (EHR). The change was made to correct an error in writing the regulation that was pointed out in comments that EHR stakeholders had offered in response.
Apparently the HL7 2.5.1 standard isn’t always the best fit for syndromic surveillance, a key method for tracking the public spread of a disease. Examples include the standard’s lack of support for providing a patient’s chief complaint, date and time of visit, severity of illness, specific indicators (such as pulse oximetry readings), and age in the reporting piece. While some health care entities still use HL7 2.3.1, it’s a retired standard.
To offer relief for EHR vendors, as well as for the ONC-Authorized Testing and Certification Bodies currently vetting EHR systems for meaningful use, ONC sidestepped its usual procedure: publishing a Federal Register proposed rulemaking notice and commenting period, and a 30-day waiting period before the interim final rule goes into effect. Instead, ONC put the rule into effect immediately. The agency will, however, take public comments on the change until Nov. 12.